Last weekend was the annual Saskatchewan Festival of Words held in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and it was my first time attending and I can’t figure out why. It was an awesome experience. I met so many wonderful people and fellow reading enthusiasts.
There were interviews, author readings, and panel discussions. I attended my first ever poetry slam competition. In this photo author, and sometimes guest host on CBC’s q, Jael Richardson is interviewing award winning author, Eden Robinson, who is also the owner of the best laugh around.
One of my favourite functions was the Dinner with Renee Kohlman, a Saskatchewan chef and food blogger from Saskatoon. If you get a chance, check out her wonderful blog, Sweetsugarbean. Also, Renee’s cookbook, All The Sweet Things, is a delightful mix of heartwarming stories, soft, bright colours, and beautiful recipes. We also dined with a delightful couple of ladies whose husbands had been RCMP officers (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) stationed in rural British Columbia. Talk about natural born storytellers, they regaled us with story after story.
I think the best surprise about attending the Festival Of Words was the connection I made with people from across Western Canada. People from places like Red Deer, Alberta; Swift Current, Saskatchewan; Edmonton, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and the list goes on. People were more than welcoming and happy to include you in their group. Next year we’re going to win Trivia Night.
Until next time…
Are you big on summer festivals? What festivals are popular in your area?
Although I’ve managed to read, or perhaps finish is a better word, three books, I’ve spent most of my free time in June writing and trying to meet the writing goals I set for this month’s writing challenge. Thank goodness, the books I did have on the go were excellent and I recommend all three of them.
When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.
Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.
East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…
You’ll never think of certain vegetables (and some fruits) the same way again. Having said that, this book takes on some pretty heavy issues with compassion and humour. Nikki, a young, modern woman who isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life, applies for a job teaching a creative community writing class in a traditional neighbourhood centre in Southall, West London. When the women arrive for class, Nikki learns they are widows expecting to be taught English and literacy. An unexpected turn has these conservative Sikh widows penning erotic stories. I loved the characters, especially the widows. struggling to be seen in a world where they were no longer valued.
Think you know what it’s like being a baller’s girl? You don’t. My fairy tale is upside down. A happily never after. I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud. I was a fool, and his love – fool’s gold.
Now there’s a new player in the game, August West. One of the NBA’s brightest stars. Fine. Forbidden. He wants me. I want him. But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won’t let me go.
Long Shot also deals with the very weighty issue of partner violence. Trigger Warning: There are some very hard to read and violent scenes in this book. But as someone who lives in the Canadian province with the shameful statistic of having the highest rate of partner violence, I wanted to read the book I’d seen recommended on Twitter. When both Sarah MacLean and Kristen Higgins recommended the same book, I listen. Long Shot gives an insight to what it looks like inside an abusive relationship, and what it takes to leave. I appreciated every moment of this story. The hard brutal parts and the soft generous parts. Iris and August will stay with me for a very long time.
Audiobook: The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad
Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road.
There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population – except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.
But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.
Debut novelist Nafiza Azad weaves an immersive tale of magic and the importance of names; fiercely independent women; and, perhaps most importantly, the work for harmony within a city of a thousand cultures and cadences.
I’ve hit a sweet spot with audiobooks and that’s fantasy. It’s the only thing I’ve been able to listen to with any success. This debut book by an Canadian author didn’t disappoint and was delightful with an excellent narrator. There was rich description and engaging characters and a wonderful and enticing magical element. Fatima is only one of a strong group of female characters. There is a matriarchal feel to this book that I adored. Fatima struggles to fit in. She’s doesn’t quite fit into the struggling working class neighbourhood where she lives with her sister. Then finds herself facing the same alienation within the aristocracy of the palace, when her life is changed forever. I can’t wait for the next book.
Until next time…
Summer is upon us! What books have you been reading? Or any books to recommend?
We’re all busy. I think it’s likely safe to say we’re all stressed about something, too. But, if you’re like me, you have a pile of books waiting to help you relax. And we all know, at least we bookworms know, that summer is the best time for reading! Or that reading is a great way to leave life behind anytime of the year. But for those of us living in the northern hemisphere June is all about summer. Therefore, summer reading!
My summer reading list:
Five Tips To Tackle Any TBR Pile
Tip number one is to listen to more audiobooks! Fun fact: June is also audiobook month! My favourite place to listen to them is in the car, but I’ll also listen to them while doing some mindless chore, too. For some reason, fantasy and non-fiction are my go-tos with audiobooks. Confession: romance is harder because – sex scenes. I just can’t with the sex scenes in audio. In ebooks or paperbacks – heck yeah! But definitely check out how to access audiobooks from your local library, and here is Techradar’s Best Audiobook Sites for 2019. I’m currently listening to: The Candle and The Flame by Nafiza Azad.
Tip number two is to set a summer reading challenge. Or set a goal. Find a friend to read along with you. One summer our writing group read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. We all wanted to read a classic and it was fun to read along with others! So easy these days to set up a private Facebook group where everyone can chime in or you could get together every week to weigh in with your thoughts. Set up a group text. Then set some goals, like read this many chapters by this date, and away you go. Again, your library might have summer reading challenges to join.
Tip number three is a suggestion to sign up for Litsy! Book lovers unite on this social media platform. It’s like Instagram, only for readers. And with no advertising or promoting allowed. Great for book recommendations and for connecting with other readers. I also found a pen pal group. We’re called the #poutinepenpals. Because we’re Canadian, eh. This is also a way of keeping track of your reading. Disclaimer: there are some serious book lovers to be found there. As in some post monthly stats! And those stats are super impressive. Never thought I’d consider myself a slacker when it came to reading! Also, there are a lot of fun challenges to take part in, too.
Tip number four is to own your reading preferences! There’s nothing wrong with liking a certain type of book and sticking to that type of book. And don’t continue with a book if you don’t like it. That’s why the library is a great place to get books. You can quit a book and not feel guilty or pressured to continue to read it because you paid for it. Also, the library likely has some summer fun of it’s own happening and a good place to check out summer activities for you or any kids you might have in tow. Because we certainly want reading to be part of any child’s or teen’s summer activities. Let’s all be on our phones a little less and have our noses in a book a little more.
Tip number five is to branch out if you’re in a rut. Try something different. Again, the library is a great place to head to if you’ve lost your enthusiasm for reading. Ask for recommendations from friends. Or check out book review sites. Listen to a book podcast. Did you know that Reese Witherspoon has a book club called Hello Sunshine? Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy, who’s always ready with a book recommendation.
Until next time…
What’s everyone else reading? Right this very minute? Or hoping to read this summer?
Or, so the lyrics go. Not that the band Chicago had a family vacation in mind when they wrote Hard To Say I’m Sorry. But it’s true, everyone needs a break and some time away. It doesn’t have to be far, as in our case. Just far enough to feel like your in a different place.
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
California or Bust
We left behind the snow and cold for the sun, water, and scenery of Encinitas, California. You can read more about the lovely coastal town and surfing mecca of Encinitas HERE. If I won the lottery I’d by a house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. That’s my fantasy. A place by the ocean. I can’t imagine the novelty of walking out my door and along the beach every single day of my life. Darn it, I’ll just have to settle for living in a province of a 100,000 lakes with beautiful sunrises and sunsets and plenty of golf courses. Poor me.
We didn’t rush about and fit in as much sightseeing and touristy things as we usually do. We settled into our VRBO and relaxed. We did visit the San Diego Botanic Garden which is an absolute treasure and it was lovely to see all the plants and flowers after a VERY long winter. We watched surfers, dolphins and pelicans from the hot tub on our deck. I drank my fair share of margaritas.
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.
Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
I couldn’t put it down. It’s twisty and turny and you’re never sure who you can trust. It managed to take me by surprise and I loved all the old movie references.
Little does he know his started the moment he boarded The Boundless. The longest, most glamorous locomotive in the world, it stretches more than eleven kilometres long and pulls an astounding 987 cars: passenger cars, shooting galleries, gardens, an onboard swimming pool, cinema and much more. But its maiden voyage won’t be a smooth ride for Will. After witnessing a murder during a station stop, he barely makes it back onto the train (with a running leap!), then must work his way from the caboose forward to his father in first class – with the murderer and his cronies on his tail. Luckily, a clever and nimble friend is perfecting her act in The Boundless’s circus car, and there the real thrill ride begins. Sasquatches, bog-dwelling hags and illusions abound in this outsized adventure aboard the Titanic of trains!
This is a middle grade book that we read it to our daughter on this trip. It’s so good! Very Canadian, which I adore. A cast of colourful characters are in for the ride of their life as the Boundless traverses the Canadian Pacific railway not long after the last spike is nailed into place. Also, and people probably don’t know this about me, I’m a Sasquatch (Bigfoot) enthusiast. And guess what? There are Sasquatch in this book!
Until next time…
Where is your fantasy home located? Or share the name of a book you’ve enjoyed lately!
Well…March has entered like a lion in my neck of the woods with our area getting between 20 and 25 centimetres (8 to 10 inches) of snow. I know we’re not supposed to go on and on about the weather, because how boring, but holey moley that was a lot of shovelling. More so for Jack than me, if I’m being honest, which I almost always am. Also, a huge thank you to our snow blowing neighbours, of which we have three. Each of them took to heart the help a neighbour shovel out campaign and made runs up and down our sidewalks and driveway.
Also, of special interest to me as I’m the parent of a child with special needs, is the fact that March 7th marks the annual R-word: Spread The Word To End The Word campaign. We can all agree the R-word needs retiring, like other hurtful words that mock and malign have been in the last few years.
Bellewether is my favourite kind of book and reading it gave me so much joy. I didn’t want it to end. Very well written in Susanna Kearsley’s usual clever style, I fell in love with the characters and I also felt like I was given a glimpse into the every day life of the times. The book is set Long Island, New York, in both present day and during the last year of the Seven Years War . It also had a Canadian connection, which I very much appreciated.
The heroines of each time have both had their lives upended, both having suffered tragic personal loses. Charley Van Hoek is settling into her new job as curator of the Wilde House Museum when she learns of the long ago doomed romance between a French Canadian lieutenant, Jean-Phillipe de Sabran and Lydia Wilde. She is determined to include their history in the museum’s tribute to Benjamin Wilde, Lydia’s famous brother. Not everyone on the museum board agrees with her, but luckily the Wilde house is happy to help her figure it out.
Romance, war, historical intrigue, Bellewether has it all. And I didn’t guess the twist until the end!
*I received this ARC courtesy of Netgalley
* Book Available April 24, 2018
A bit about the Seven Years’ War
The Seven Years War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Aboriginal allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Québec City in 1759 and Montréal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.
Have you heard of or read other books by Susanna Kearsley? If you like time slip novels, check her out! Also, please share your recommendation of other books who feature characters who differently abled!
Monday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day and I’ll let you in on a not so little secret, Beauty And The Beast is my favourite fairy tale. Or, more accurately, the more modern Disneyfied version of La Belle et La Bete written in the 18th century by French novelist Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve is my favourite fairy tale.
La Belle et La Bete VS Beauty and the Beast
One would assume the older version of the fairy tale would be the more gruesome and deadly. Surprisingly, it’s not. While the theme of learning to love, irregardless of appearances, is at the center of both tales, in the original the Beast is not being punished for a wrongdoing, he is the victim of an injustice. He refuses to marry his governess, an old and wrinkled evil fairy. so she curses him. A good fairy intervenes and promises a reversal of the evil spell if he can find someone to love his beastly self. She also camouflages the castle in a fog and puts everyone to sleep. Or turns them to stone, I can’t remember.
Also, there is no deadline in the original fairy tale. No fading rose. But a rose does cause problems in the original, as Belle’s father picks one for her from the Beast’s garden, to which the Beast takes great exception.
There is no Gaston, no Le Fou, no singing servants in the 18th century version. But there are costumed monkeys and birds. And, of course, both versions of the fairy tale include a courtship (with notable differences), and Belle does leave to visit her family in both versions. The Beast’s curse is broken in each and the handsome prince once again has his looks. But where the Disney version ends, the original has more to it. Mainly, a nasty mother-in-law who’s not impressed with her new daughter’s-in-law less than noble standing and a plot twist worthy of The Sixth Sense.
It’s Valentine’s Day! A day for cards and chocolates, and who doesn’t love chocolate! But if your love is a passionate reader, remember to stop by the bookstore after you hit the flower shop and the card store.
The Top Five Reasons To Give Books For Valentine’s Day:
Nothing says I Love You! like a well chosen book. Even a misguided choice will do. Giving a book says they understand and support your obsession.
You can return books. Let’s face it, sometimes your significant others might know you love books but they’re clueless about what you actually like to read.
Books don’t make you sneeze.
There’ll be some of it left over the next morning, unlike the chocolate you inhaled.
Books are full of good ideas, especially romance novels. They just might have a sexy suggestion or two for later.
Also, if you’re solo this Valentine’s Day, because, hey, you choose to be, you can take yourself to the bookstore and buy your own book! How about organizing a Galentine’s Day book club with flowers and chocolates for everyone.
Likewise, if you’re suffering this V Day, and are in need of comfort. You don’t even have to leave the house to find some solace, eBooks have you covered.
Thought Of The Week:
I read this article in the Chicago Tribune which ponders the future of the romance novel in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
“Romance offers that comfort read, but it also offers resistance. You have a lot of feminists who are writing romance, Alisha Rai, Alyssa Cole, Sarah MacLean, and they’re all putting that kind of thread through their books. Resistance has always been there. Women have always had to resist in order to get what they want out of life,” Beverly Jenkins
Go ahead and buy yourself a treat this Valentine’s Day and get that book you’ve been wanting to read. You deserve it.
Tropes are popular. Movies have them, television shows have them. Books have them. Look no further than the romance genre that’s never met a trope it didn’t like. Some of which we love and some we love to hate. That’s what makes taglines and covers so important. It’s the first indication of what you can expect to find inside the pages of a book.
My Top Five Favourite Romance Tropes:
Reunion/Second Chance Stories (Hands down my go to favourite trope! Bonus points if they take place in a small town! Sigh…)
Badass Bookworm (Intelligence is a major turn-on for me.)
Fish Out Of Water (Nothing makes me happier than a heroine or hero who finds themselves in a situation they never imagined without the appropriate skills to navigate it.)
Nerd Hero (Heroes with brains? Glasses? A aptitude for math? Don’t talk to me until I’m done the book.)
Beauty and the Beast (Always.)
My Top Least Favourite Romance Tropes:
Enemies to Lovers (This scenario does not work for me! Not sure why!)
Marriage of Convenience (I always think I’ll these ones and then I never, ever do. I think because they often have an unequal power dynamic.)
Famous Hero/Normal Heroine (These leave me cold, for lack of a better term. That includes billionaire heroes, rock star heroes, sports heroes. I know, I’m weird.)
Little Sister/Older Brother’s Best Friend. (The conflict often results from breaking a dated bro code and that doesn’t work for me.)
Boss/Secretary (Just..yuck! Again, I never enjoy the power dynamic of these type of workplace romances.)
I guess you could say I definitely have preferences. I LOVE to root for the underdog. Intelligent characters are a must for most readers, but high IQs, geniuses, characters who are passionate or experts in their fields draw me right in. On the other hand, hardworking, salt of the earth, self-sacrificing characters who are just looking to keep their heads down and get the job done are also a favourite of mine.
But any book with the word ‘bastard’ in the title – no, thanks. That goes for books with the word ‘submissive’ anywhere on the cover too. As you might have guessed from my least favourite list, any book where the representation of power is immediately perceived to be unequal is of little interest to me.
As for my own writing, BACKLASH definitely has a second chance at love feel to it. EXPOSED has a smidgen of a May/December trope. OFF THE GRID has both a badass bookworm (or smart, passionate doctor) and nerd hero vibe. And if you enjoy the family dysfunction trope, you’ll love the book I’m working on right now.
However, despite my lists, I’m always open to great writing and well-developed characters. And if a favoured author pens a book that looks like it might fall into the ‘nope’ category, I’ll definitely check it out. After all, we learn as much from books we don’t like as from the ones we do.
How about you? What are your favourite types of stories? Least favourite?
Any time is a good time to read a book, but something about the cold winds of winter, cozy blankets, and hot tea encourages me to hunker down and read away the January blues. Blue Monday falls somewhere in January, There’s some debate about which Monday specifically, and how the defining formula works, but I think it’s safe to say some of us find January challenging for a variety of reasons. My coping strategy is reading.
My January TBR Pile
My January TBR pile is an eclectic mix of books. Most of which I was fortunate enough to receive as Christmas gifts. I’ve finished reading The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld. This was our January book club pick and let me just say, wow. I can’t say enough good thing about this book. It checked all my favourites: remote setting, strong but damaged protagonist, enthralling plot, excellent pacing.
I have started Stephen King’s On Writing. A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie is sitting beside me on my desk as inspiration! Also, I was lucky enough to win a $25 KOBO gift card, so I bought a book by a favourite author, Nora Roberts’ Year One.
Take that January blues!
My novel, BACKLASH, is included in a romantic suspense boxset, Closer To Danger, that is available for preorder and comes out February 8th. The entire boxset is only $2.99 (US) at Amazon US and $3.76 (CAN) Amazon CAN.
Six romantic suspense books! If you love intrigue, are looking for excitement, or want to set your heart racing, preorder now and don’t miss the chance to read books by these talented authors: Rachel Brimble, Suzanne Rossi, Mitzi Pool Bridges, Robena Grant, Debra Jupe.
What does your reading list look like for January?
Gosh, I’m so glad that I have a partner and that we support each other in this crazy business we like to call parenting. Hopefully, we do a decent job. Most days, anyway. And I definitely wouldn’t want to do this job without him. He’s a great father and role model for our kids. I also born into a two parent family. I have a very involved father. Fact: I’m a lot like my Dad. At 79 years young he rocks at texting and using emojis more than me. And he never shies away from learning new things. I love my Dad to the moon and back.
I think, if there’s one role within families that is changing with the times, it’s the role of father. But maybe that’s because I’m a mother…and when I think about it our role has changed too. We’ve come a long way from thinking the 1950’s ideal family unit is the only option These days fathers can be the stay-at-home parent. He can be gay or straight, have stepchildren, adoptive kids, and he’s given necessary label of parent rather than babysitter.
When it comes to fictional dads, I don’t not have to put one iota of effort into naming my very favourite father character, which would be Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Quiet, polite, and smart. And he loved to read! I have loved him since high school.
“Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?”
Here are three other books I feel have memorable dads or father figures:
I’m so thankful for my dad. He taught me about taking risks, encourages me to step outside my comfort zone and he’s always there for me. And here’s to fictional fathers, the past, present and future examples of a changing world.